The StorageReview In The Lab series examines the behind the scenes and inner workings of our Cincinnati-based enterprise test lab. The content is designed to take a look at the equipment, software and tools that keep the lab going, with an eye toward helping IT administrators get new ideas while also seeing the challenges faced by a growing IT organization.
by StorageReview Enterprise Lab

In The Lab: Virtual Workstation Testbed (VDI)

When talking about virtualization, we spend most of our coverage on the enterprise application and infrastructure sides of the business. However, the end-user content we produce does very well also; there's a growing interest in the enterprise when it comes to enabling users to take advantage of maturing technologies to deliver a PC-like experience via thin client. The reasons are varied, but the motivation largely comes down to enabling a global workforce with a secure, yet high-performance workspace. In fact, we recently explored these issues with Luke Wignall from NVIDIA in a podcast. So that we may appropriately cover the high-end VDI space, what we prefer to call virtual workstations, StorageReview has been working with a set of partners to build out a dedicated test environment in our lab. HPE, HP, NVIDIA, ESRI, VMware and others have all contributed so that we may take both a holistic look at virtual workstation infrastructures, while still drilling down into the individual components to understand their impact on performance. 

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by Kevin OBrien

In the Lab: Fresh Air Cooling

Lowering power usage is a hot-button topic for anyone operating a lab or datacenter these days. Utility costs are always increasing, servers and storage keep growing and there are few signs that "the cloud" is going to do much to help. Regardless of the size of operation, power costs make up a huge portion of an OPEX budget (#4 at StorageReview); including the direct power usage of servers and associated hardware, as well as indirect power usage to cooling everything. During one of my first trips to Dell's headquarters in Round Rock, TX, I had the pleasure of seeing the Dell Fresh Air Hot House, which sparked ideas that would eventually lower the overall power usage of the StorageReview Test Lab.

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by StorageReview Enterprise Lab

In the Lab: Dell Venue 11 Pro 7000 Series

The Dell Venue 11 Pro 7000 series is designed to adapt to a wide variety of different work styles and use cases, as it provides consumers with a multi-purpose functionality including the added option of a desktop experience. Users can attach the mobile keyboard, take advantage of the desktop docking station with dual monitors, or simply use it purely as a tablet with its active stylus pen for easy note taking. It also works with existing x86 applications, peripherals, and management tools, which allows it to effortlessly fit into all kinds of business environment.

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by Kevin OBrien

In The Lab: Supermicro SuperServer 1028U-TNR4T+ Network Loadgen Configuration

The Supermicro SuperServer 1028U-TNR4T+ has a number of features that help set itself apart from other 1U servers in the space, primarily its storage and networking capabilities. Offering twin NVMe-bays on the front and quad 10GbE out the back, the 1028U-TNR4T+ doesn't require much in terms of add-on parts to get itself situated quite well in a virtualized environment. In this next In The Lab series we cover some of the configuration details and tweaks we've made as we position this server as both a central command center of the StorageReview VMware environment, as well as how we leverage its high-performance networking capabilities for NAS/SAN testing.

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by Kevin OBrien

In the Lab: Supermicro 1028U-TNR4T+ Lab Integration

After reviewing the Supermicro SuperServer 1028U-TNR4T+, we've added it into our test lab in a role hosting VMware vCenter as well as other VMs that keep tests working smoothly in the background. As part of this integration, the SuperServer has received some upgrades and add-ons, including an Emulex 16Gb FC card as well as an LSI/Avago 9361-8i SAS3 RAID card. The RAID card gives us support for SAS devices connected inside the front-mount drive bays, which the platform ships enabled for from the factory. The Emulex 16Gb FC card helps us connect to traditional SAN components in our lab, whereas the onboard 4 x 10GbE handles vMotion and iSCSI storage connectivity. In this In The Lab piece we'll cover the upgrade steps as well as the background on why this server is well suited for a virtualized environment.

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by Kevin OBrien

In the Lab: VMware HCIbench Hands On

VMware's VSAN group recently announced a free storage performance testing tool for Hyperconverged Infrastructure (HCI), the HCI benchmark or HCIbench. While stressing traditional arrays with I/O or bandwidth tests is fairly well understood, applying synthetic tests to HCI gear requires a careful approach and a steep learning curve. With traditional storage infrastructure you setup your I/O generator of choice with a given workload profile, point it to some LUNs and let it rip. Hyperconverged testing requires a large-scale approach where many VMs (often 10-64) simultaneously apply that workload across multiple vDisks, at the same time… not to mention collecting all of that data when the task finishes. This type of approach is needed to adequately stress the platform and move closer, although not equal to, a real-world production setting. As you might imagine this is hard for experienced reviewers to accomplish and can be impossible for many end-users to complete in a reasonable time frame. VMware’s HCIbench helps make this testing process much easier and lets anyone who can deploy a pre-built VM test as well as an independent reviewer test HCI better.

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by StorageReview Enterprise Lab

In The Lab: Xitron XT2640 Precision Multi-Channel Power Analyzer

Power consumption is front of mind when it comes to designing, building, and running a datacenter. Not only does power usage eat into IT operations budgets, there are many other influences power consumption has as a larger part of the IT infrastructure. The StorageReview lab is no different. Not only does our testing at times draw huge amounts of power (think the Griswold household when the Christmas lights went on in Christmas Vacation) but we want to know how much power everything we plug in draws. If we test a storage device that out performs all other in a given segment, it is nice to point out if it draws more power than Godzilla’s atomic breath, putting a more complete cost of ownership profile together.

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by StorageReview Enterprise Lab

In the Lab: Seek thermal camera

The Seek thermal camera is an ultra-portable thermal imaging camera attached to, and managed by, newer generation Android and iOS mobile devices and is an ideal alternative for consumers or small-to-medium sized businesses that do not want to spend thousands of dollars on professional cameras. Working in both complete darkness and daylight, the Seek thermal detects the infrared light that is emitted by objects and uses the collected data from over 32,000 thermal pixels to create a visible image on the smartphone. The thermal sensor of the Seek has a resolution of 206 x 156 pixels and features a 36° field of view, which is more than enough for our use cases. It also comes in an XR model, which stands for “Xtra Range”, allowing users to see objects at greater distances with adjustable focus and a narrower 20° field of focus.

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by Kevin OBrien

In the Lab: Remote Desktop While On the Go

Mobile remote access is something many labs need to work with when it comes to keeping tests operating smoothly, where physical access to the server isn't feasible. In the StorageReview Test Lab we work with remote access on a daily basis to keep our many tests operating smoothly, although a desktop or notebook isn't always the closest platform within reach. At times, be it in the grocery store or picking the kid up from daycare, work calls with sometimes exciting problems to quickly sort out. This is where an iPhone or iPad with an RDP app comes in to save the day and keep the lab operational. To that end we've used a number of RDP solutions, with Jump Desktop being at the top of our list.

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by Kevin OBrien

In the Lab: Dell PowerEdge 13G R730 Cluster

For organizations leading the way with the business-critical solutions, technology refreshes are a fundamental part of doing business. Leading-edge applications can't wait for legacy infrastructure; be it storage, interconnect, or compute related. The StorageReview Lab faces the same fundamental issues as application workloads become larger and more intense to take advantage of the newest generation of storage and networking products. Last week we took delivery of a dozen Dell PowerEdge 13G R730 servers specifically earmarked to test the latest virtualization and latency-sensitive workloads that face tier zero storage. 

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